You should like Primus for all the reasons you hate Hanson.
Rhinoplasty, their new multimedia EP, reminds us that Primus are still thumbing their noses at the music industry and still playing for their fans. It also reinforces the point that Primus are about as likely to make a three-minute hit single as Hanson are to get tattoos and join an ashram.
Rhinoplasty is the follow-up to Miscellaneous Debris (1992). (Debris was originally slated as B-sides for singles and overseas releases, but Primus, not being a singles type of band, wrapped them all into a package that hard-core fans love.)
Conventional wisdom dictates that bands withhold new material between album releases so that fans will become so sick of a band's last album that they'll fork over fifteen bucks for the new product without a second thought. But then, Primus has never been a conventional-wisdom kind of band. This 50-minute EP has as much content as a regular LP (including two live tracks from one of the band's infamous New Year's Eve shows in San Francisco), but they're still only going to charge you an EP price. The graphics alone are worth the cost.
U2's Bono once told Les Claypool that Primus reminded him of XTC. And on this album, Primus covers their second XTC song, "Scissor Man," from Drums and Wires. It's the tightest track on the album. Claypool's choppy vocals give the song a ska sound that's a welcome twist on XTC's original delivery. The song highlights Brian "Brain" Mantia's invincible drum rhythms, and reminds you that Primus became an even better band after Brain took the spot of original Primus drummer Tim Alexander.
Not long after Todd Rundgren and Peter Gabriel broke ground with enhanced CDs (the ones that allow you to view graphics as well as hear music), the discs fell out of favor with most bands. For some reason, a lot of people imagine that putting an audio CD in a CD-ROM drive will damage the disc. Undaunted, Primus began developing the enhanced-CD portion of Rhinoplasty for 1995's Tales from the Punchbowl. But after Microsoft changed platforms, making the CD unreadable on most computers, the project was mothballed and only a portion of it was released. (Yet another example of why Microsoft needs some competition.)
Primus don't care that enhancing their CD might depress album sales. They're releasing the album for their fans, not for the Billboard list. And besides, they already know that they suck. The good news for those of us daring enough to use an enhanced disc is that their graphic acumen has only improved since they recorded the theme song to "South Park." Rhinoplasty contains new designs from Mike Johnson, an animator from Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas," and photos by Jay Blakesberg.
There's also a backstage video from the New Year's Eve show, featuring none other than Bob Cock and the Yellow Sock. The highlight of the enhanced portion of the album is an animated short by Johnson, based on a cover of the Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," that you can only hear and see if you use the CD-ROM drive. For the song, Primus have morphed into "Festus Clamrod and the El Sobrante Twangers," with the addition of violinist/fiddler Irene Sazer, of the San Francisco Symphony. The short was featured in "Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation." You'll need to go to http://www.primussucks.com for a password that will allow you to view the video.
This rest of the songs are a mixed lot. "Amos Moses," a campy cover of a song by '70s country-picker Jerry Reid, is the funniest part of the album (the song was on the first 45 that Claypool ever bought). The cover of Metallica's "The Thing That Should Not Be" is a track that never should have been -- it's a straight rendition that doesn't go anywhere. The album also contains covers of "The Family and the Fishing Net" by Peter Gabriel, "Silly Putty" by Stanley Clarke, "Behind My Camel" by the Police and a new studio version of "Too Many Puppies."
It's hard to resist an album that looks good and sounds good by a band that isn't Hanson, and that knows it sucks.